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OK, if you want it, here's a chance to be a mentor for a day. I have a question that I am way too embarrased to ask anyone at my law school about. All year, they've been saying we're here to learn to think like a lawyer. If I say I'm confused, someone invariably says, or implies, that I just haven't yet learned this mystical skill.

I've been outlining, and I'm starting to wonder about something. Do all they mean is that I need to learn to divide a rule into elements and argue why or why not a particular fact pattern would fit into our be excluded from an element? Can I just use the whole public policy thing to support whatever argument I'm trying to make?

Am I missing something huge and beyond my comprehension? I feel awful, to be honest. I'm guessing there's more to it, but I don't see it. And I am too sleep deprived to go find it.

You seem very non-judgmental, so I thought it would be all right to ask you. And in case this really is the stupidest question you've ever heard, no, it's not a joke.




Ooooh! Good question! "Thinking like a lawyer" is a phrase I use a lot and hadn't actually thought to break down into it's parts before.

I decided to blog about it rather than fill up Scheherazade's comments - see http://observantlittle.blogspot.com/2004/10/thinking-like-lawyer.html


NZ lawyer

On my first day at law school the Dean of the school gave a speech, I don't remember anything other than that he said "The good thing about law school is that it teaches you to think like a lawyer, the bad thing about law school is that it teaches you to think like a lawyer".

In my view "thinking like a lawyer" is something that you learn by osmosis at law school. A lot of the early focus is on "finding the ratio/rule" of a case, or "distinguishing a decision on the facts". While these are important skills, I don't think it is the crux of thinking like a lawyer, rather one of the building blocks. In fact, later in law school these things are not really discussed at law - it is assumed that you can do it.

Thinking like a lawyer is an ability to analyse a situation through a legal framework and come to a solution. In many cases the final elements of "thinking like a lawyer" do not develop until you begin work. In an academic setting, legal opinions require you to argue around points of law, usually from both positions. In contrast, in practice you act for a client. You must take the clients view.

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